UGA murder suspect’s brother charged with having fake green card

Diego Ibarra is sibling of suspect in student homicide on University of Georgia campus.
The GBI and local police agencies work at Cielo Azulak Apartments, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, in Athens, Ga.  (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

The GBI and local police agencies work at Cielo Azulak Apartments, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, in Athens, Ga. (Jason Getz /

Federal prosecutors charged Athens resident Diego Ibarra with possessing a fraudulent U.S. permanent resident card late Friday, the same day police charged his younger brother with murder in the death of a nursing student on the University of Georgia campus.

Diego Ibarra, 29 and from Venezuela, is criminally charged with possession of a fraudulent document after authorities became aware of his presence in the U.S. as part of their homicide investigation into Thursday’s death of Laken Hope Riley, the Department of Justice announced in a press release.

Diego’s brother, Jose Antonio Ibarra, 26, was arrested Friday on multiple charges including malice murder after authorities discovered the 22-year-old nursing student’s body Thursday in a wooded area near UGA’s intramural fields.

Jose Antonio Ibarra is also Venezuelan, the Justice Department said late Friday, but it did not comment on his immigration status.

At a press conference Friday night, UGA police chief Jeffrey Clark said murder suspect Jose Antonio Ibarra lives in Athens but that he is not a U.S. citizen. Clark did not comment on his immigration status.

Diego Ibarra was being held in state custody as of Friday night, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Homeland Security Investigations became aware of Diego Ibarra’s undocumented presence in the U.S. on Friday when an Athens-Clarke County police officer approached him because he matched the description of a suspect in the homicide investigation. Diego Ibarra presented the officer with a U.S. permanent resident card, also known as a green card, that was determined to be fraudulent, according to the Justice Department.

Diego Ibarra has been arrested three times by Athens law enforcement since entering the U.S., according to the criminal complaint and sworn affidavit. He was arrested in late September for driving under the influence of alcohol and driving without a license; in late October for shoplifting; and in December for failure to appear for a finger-printable offense.

According to the Justice Department, Diego Ibarra was processed for expedited removal but claimed a credible fear of return to Venezuela. He was consequently released from immigration custody pending a ruling on his asylum claim on April 30.